Gonzalez outsmarts Posada at home plate to score first run
Posted: Sunday October 26, 2003 6:40AM; Updated: Wednesday December 31, 2003 8:25PM
And right in the middle of it, a catcher who almost always tries to avoid collisions at the plate.
Gonzalez won the race by the narrowest of margins, scoring the crucial first run for Florida in Game 6 of the World Series when he eluded a tag from Jorge Posada.
It was the only run the Marlins would need in their 2-0 victory to win the championship Saturday night.
Over and over, Posada explained how it unfolded with two outs in the fifth inning: Garcia's strong, one-hop throw, Gonzalez's crafty slide with his left hand touching the plate, umpire Tim Welke's emphatic call.
"The ball was to the right side of the plate," the catcher said. "By the time I got to reach for him, he was already by me."
Posada stationed himself a foot or two in front of the plate but a step up the first-base line after Luis Castillo singled.
Garcia's throw was on line and appeared to be in time to catch Gonzalez. But the runner lunged toward the plate and away from Posada, who had to stretch back for a swipe tag because of where he was positioned.
Gonzalez reached for the plate and barely touched it as he went by, avoiding Posada's tag. Welke, on top of the play, immediately pointed at the plate, signaling that the runner had touched it to score the game's first run.
"He did an excellent job," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said, referring to Gonzalez's dash home. "It was a good throw. Posada blocked the plate but he slid around him. It was a great slide."
In a game where runs were scarce, it gave the Marlins a lead they never relinquished and was the key play in the deciding game of the World Series.
Gonzalez had reached base on a single. Without a steal all season, he was anchored at first base, taking no chances against New York Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who has one of the best pickoff moves in baseball.
When Juan Pierre singled to center, Gonzalez advanced to second and Castillo came to bat. Florida's leading hitter in the regular season was locked in a dreadful slump, batting just .145 on 3-for-21 in the first five games of the Series, 0-for-2 in Game 6 and hitless in his last 14 at-bats.
Pettitte had two strikes on Castillo, but the batter kept fouling pitches off, staying alive. Finally, it paid off. He golfed a base hit to right field.
The race was on.
Gonzalez, not particularly fast, was off with the crack of the bat, running with two outs, determined to get the Marlins on the scoreboard. Garcia, part of a Yankees platoon in right field, came in quickly, fielded the ball cleanly, double-clutched and threw to the plate.
"All I can do is throw the ball," Garcia said. "I thought I had a pretty good chance."
Yes, the chance was there. But like so many other chances for the Yankees during the World Series, they couldn't take advantage.